NBA Finals: NBA tracking future of statistics

A new tracking optical tracking system in use by 10 NBA teams, including the Thunder, provides a deeper look at players' movements on court and more data to analyze.
by Lillie-Beth Brinkman Published: June 22, 2012
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Kopp said soccer teams in Europe already have deployed the system to track things like their players' distance and speed.

The amount of data available with the system can be mind-boggling.

Teams “are starting to learn what to do with the data,” Hellmuth said.

In basketball, teams can use the SportVu optical tracking system to determine speed of players' accelerations and decelerations, how many times each player touched the ball and how many minutes each player had possession. The system can tell coaches what happens on the court when the ball is in the air — who blocks and who rebounds, as well as things like who passes the ball to the person who made the assist that led to a basket, Hellmuth said.

The Miami Heat, which defeated the Thunder for the NBA championship Thursday night, is not one of the 10 teams using the system, but during the Western Conference Finals, the Thunder and the San Antonio Spurs shared data since they both had the cameras in place in their respective arenas, Kopp said.

Hellmuth doesn't know how the Thunder applies the tracking data — “they're pretty sophisticated,” he said, but he sees a use for it beyond the teams: He thinks it will enhance the media's coverage of the games and be a way for fans who love using statistics to analyze the games.

“We're also interested in using these statistics to explain the games to fans better,” Hellmuth said.

Kopp hopes that 15 to 20 teams will have the SportVu cameras installed in their rafters next season.

“It's been an interesting couple of years. ... The more you dig, the more you can find,” Kopp said.

by Lillie-Beth Brinkman
Lillie-Beth Brinkman is a Content Marketing Manager for the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce. She was previously an assistant editor of The Oklahoman
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